SIRT is not suitable for every patient and suitability for this treatment must be determined by a doctor after careful medical consideration.
My name is Patricia Paling. I’m 73 years old, have a daughter and son, four grandchildren and live with my husband in Derby.
It was about five years ago when I was sent a bowel cancer testing kit in the post by the local hospital who were carrying out a screening programme. I’d been having some problems going to the toilet so thought I’d better reply and send a sample back for testing. This is how I found out I had bowel cancer.
This was the start of my treatment journey. I was put on a course of radiotherapy but after about four weeks I started to become sick. I was taken to hospital where the doctors removed the cancer and gave me a stoma. I was pleased with the result as I left hospital cancer free.
This lasted for about 18 months. Following a routine hospital test I was told that the cancer had come back but this time in my liver. I felt normal and had no symptoms so was lucky that it was picked up as early as it was.
I was put on chemotherapy and a biological drug. The biological drug was not routinely available on the NHS so I paid for this privately. These treatments worked well but for a limited period of time.
Following this I was fortunate enough to be the first female in the East Midlands to be given SIR-Spheres. I also paid for this treatment from my savings as at the time it was not available on the NHS. I was just pleased to have anything that would help.
After having the SIR-Spheres I felt that I could do anything and became really active again. I was able to do lots of things I couldn’t previously and didn’t get tired. I really enjoy walking and was able to go on more walks. My hair also grew back after the chemotherapy. My cancer treatment didn’t hold me back at all!
In my follow-up visits to the hospital I was told that the tumours could not be removed, even though I’d had a good response to treatment. This was disappointing as I had read that some patients had been cured following surgery after SIR-Spheres treatment.
I had seven months of good life when I didn’t have to take any treatment and where I just felt normal again. However, the liver tumours started to grow back so I started back on chemotherapy. My doctor is now discussing the option of a second course of SIR-Spheres but this all depends if my liver is healthy enough to have the procedure.
What’s important to me is to be well and normal. I’ve managed to be active for periods of time while on treatment which has meant that I can do more things with my family including going on several holidays. I’m trying to carry on as normal but it’s now got to a point where I’m not feeling as well as I did.
My name is Margaret Blundell. I’m 66 years old and live in Manchester with my husband. I have three children, one son and two daughters. I’ve been a nurse and midwife in the NHS all my working life and have always been very fit, enjoying walking, cycling and swimming.
I have regularly checked my breasts for lumps but I have to say that despite this I hadn’t noticed anything unusual. It was after a routine mammogram that my breast cancer was first picked up. Following a biopsy I was told that I had an aggressive form of breast cancer and a lump that was about one and a half centimetres in size.
I was 58 at the time. I felt like I was in a world of make-believe when I was told. I was numbed and felt like a dummy, not knowing how to react. I started to go through a whole mix of emotions.
The lump was removed very quickly, 28 days after the diagnosis, and I was put on a course of tamoxifen and radiotherapy. I was bracing myself for bad news but was relieved when I was told that the treatment had been successful.
Following this I was feeling well and living pretty normally apart from some lymphoedema in my right arm – a swelling from a build up of fluid caused by damage to the lymph system following the surgery. I was shown massage techniques and exercises to help.
Around two years later I started to notice some discomfort in my hips and I couldn’t put weight on my legs. I started to take paracetamol and anti-inflammatories. Following a visit to the doctor I was given a steroid injection, but this didn’t help.
I knew something wasn’t right so I asked my doctor to take some blood tests. It was when the results came back my doctor told me the news - the cancer had returned. I was immediately sent for bone, liver and pancreas scans which revealed that my cancer had spread to my bones and liver. I asked how long I had to live and was told it could be three weeks, three months or even three years. I was completely floored…angry…traumatised.
I was put on chemotherapy and radiotherapy to help stabilise the bones and shrink the liver tumours. The doctors also discovered that as a result of the bone cancer, my left hip had fractured and that my right hip was on its way to fracturing. I had a hip replacement for the left hip and started to take a bone-strengthening drug to help improve my overall bone strength.
It was after around two more years of chemotherapy that I read about Selective Internal Radiotherapy Treatment (SIRT) for treating liver tumours. Although it wasn’t available on the NHS for my type of liver cancer, I was told that I could have it as part of a clinical trial, which I happily did.
The SIRT treatment worked wonders. The procedure wasn’t unpleasant at all and I felt much better afterwards than after courses of chemotherapy. It shrank my liver tumours and seemed to turn everything around. My response to the treatment was brilliant and I felt like I had a new lease of life. I was on top of the world and felt like my cancer had gone.
A few years after I remember I thought I had had a stroke after my mouth and eye started to droop on one side. After a MRI brain scan I was told that I had tumours in my brain. I felt that this was it! I’m not going to be here for much longer. I was started on radiotherapy which along with chemotherapy kept the tumours under control, even though it did make me a bit tired.
My doctor always gives me hope. It’s reassuring to know that he will never give up on me and will fight to get me the best treatment possible. I’ve got two more months of chemotherapy to go and my doctor says he’s got other tricks up his sleeve. I’ve asked if I should take SIRT again but he’s said that I would have to pay for it this time. Nothing’s decided yet on what the next step will be.
No one knows when you’re going die so I try to live life as best as I can. I know my limits and don’t fight it when I’m poorly and rest when I know when I need to rest. Of course there have been times when I’ve been unhappy and sobbed my heart out but you can’t give into something like this. I try to live life as normally as I can. Live, be happy and be positive is what I say!
My name’s Sarah; I’m 53; married and work full-time. I’m an outdoor type of person and enjoy being active. I love to get out and about at the weekends and especially enjoy walking and travelling.
I remember that it was Christmas 2011 when I was staying with my sister that I noticed something wasn’t right. I thought it was just a haemorrhoid and didn’t pay much attention to it. At the same time I was feeling run-down and I started losing weight.
I went to my GP who was sure it was a haemorrhoid but sent me to the hospital for a second opinion. At the hospital they noticed that my liver was enlarged so I was sent for a colonoscopy. It was then when the word cancer was first used. The consultant said that he suspected it was bowel cancer, specifically anal cancer. The consultant sent me to have a scan and biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. I went home and waited for the result. This was the worst moment for me…having to wait.
Eventually my fears were confirmed. I was told that I had anal cancer that had spread to the liver. The outlook was not good…six months without treatment and two-three years with treatment. My brain didn’t compute what I was being told. I was in total shock. I was determined that I wasn’t going to let cancer beat me. I told my doctor that I was going to make his job worthwhile so I set out to beat this. I just wanted to live a normal life.
I went on to have chemotherapy followed by a combination of chemo and radiotherapy. I would go into hospital to have my treatment and then went straight back to work the following day after each session. I started to say to myself that I’m OK and pushed myself through it all with a strong mind and support from those around me.
After seven months the treatment had been so successful that it had got rid of the anal cancer, however I was told that there wasn’t much that could be done for the liver tumours.
I had seven liver tumours in total. The liver tumours were responding well to chemotherapy with the largest shrinking from seven to two centimetres. At this point, after checking with my doctor that it would be OK, I went travelling to Machu Picchu and had a rest from the treatment. However, I was devastated to find out that only after a two-month break, the liver tumours had grown back to their original size.
I had a further six cycles of chemotherapy to which the tumours responded really well. I was mentally and physically feeling much better. However, the remaining tumours looked like they were chemo-resistant so I asked if I could have SIRT treatment.
I was referred to a SIRT specialist who was positive about my outlook and explained that in some cases people respond so well that the tumours can be removed by surgery. This is a wonderful thing to hear when in the back of your mind you think you’re going to die. I was back in hospital quickly to have the SIRT work-up procedure that was no hassle at all. Shortly after I had the SIR-Spheres microspheres injected into my liver tumours. For the first week after the procedure I was tired but two weeks after that I was up and running about.
The SIRT procedure had worked so well that the doctors decided to remove the liver tumours by surgery. This is exactly what I wanted to hear. I ended up having three quarters of my liver removed. I was out of hospital just in time for Christmas. I felt rubbish but day-by-day I became stronger and stronger.
In mid-January, after a magical Christmas, I had a follow-up appointment at the hospital. It was then that the doctors found a tiny nodule in one of my lungs. By the end of January I had keyhole surgery where microwaves were used to destroy the cancer cells in the lung. By the end of February I was back at work. I was working full time and had forgotten that I had been ill.
In March, I had another scan where the doctors found two more tiny nodules in each lung. I was told that at this stage that there isn’t much that can be done and that they need to be monitored every three months. I’m due to go back in soon to have my next scan. I’m feeling good and they say that the way you feel is an indication of what’s going on inside you so I’m feeling optimistic. I know that they can always use the microwave surgery if they do find anything that needs to be removed.
For me the strength came from not allowing myself to fall into a cycle of despair. I used my energy to keep thinking that I’m going to be OK. I wanted to change the statistics and be a survivor. As far as I’m concerned the cancer has almost gone.
My name’s Jeffrey, I’m 69, retired and live in Buckinghamshire with my wife. I’ve got a 43 year-old son and three grandchildren.
I knew something wasn’t right when I started to lose weight at an alarming rate. Over a period of about 18 months I had lost about 30 kilograms. I was looking grey, thin and skeletal. Following a biopsy at the hospital it was confirmed that I had primary liver cancer. I was put on a course of chemotherapy and in addition provided with SIRT treatment that was paid for privately.
I had two SIRT procedures, where one half of my liver was treated followed by the second half three months later. My doctor is discussing a possible third course of SIRT treatment.
I didn’t feel a thing during the SIRT work-up procedure although I had to lie still for two hours. Following the SIRT procedure where they injected SIR-Spheres microspheres into the liver tumours, I didn’t feel any major after effects other than some tenderness in my groin where the catheter was inserted. After the first SIRT treatment I went home that evening. After the second treatment I went home the following day.
So far it’s all looking positive. I’ve seen a gradual improvement in my health and wellbeing after SIRT. My last CT scan has shown that my liver has reduced in size, as have my liver tumours. My blood test results also show that my liver is functioning normally.
I’m continuing to take the chemotherapy and have a CT scan every six weeks to check on my progress.
Even though the tumours have shrunk they’ve not gone. I’ve still got cancer. There are too many tumours for the possibility of surgery to remove them and, at my age, a transplant is out of the question.
I’m feeling much better especially after a spell of depression, and have put weight back on. I’ve also got a bit of liver cirrhosis (liver damage) so I’m not drinking that much and have to limit myself to a pint a day. I’m also trying to get something to do like volunteering to keep me busy and my mind occupied.
To sum it up I’d say that I’m feeling great. I feel I’ve got a rosy future. I’m looking good, feeling good and expect to live longer.